Commonwealth Edison Refuses Ordered Deployment of Smart Meters

Chicago, IL (April 2013)  In a class action lawsuit filed Thursday, April 4, 2013 in Cook County, the plaintiffs say Commonwealth Edison, an Exelon Company (ComEd NYSE: EXC), violated an Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) order issued under Illinois’ Smart Grid Act. In exchange for annual formula rate increases, ComEd agreed to upgrade its grid, improve system reliability and install smart meters at all consumers’ homes and businesses.  Though the ICC ordered ComEd to begin smart meter installation by fall 2012, the company unilaterally pushed back deployment until 2015.

To cover the Smart Grid upgrades, in 2011 ComEd filed for a formula rate increase of $1.915 billion with the ICC. When the ICC reduced that amount by $168 million, ComEd ignored the ICC smart meter order and said it would delay installation of smart meters by about two and a half years. Customers are currently paying for the smart meters, even though none have been installed.

ComEd’s original smart meter plan included the installation of 500,000 new smart meters on Chicago’s South and West sides by 2013.  The smart meters would have provided ComEd customers with $182 million in savings and other benefits if implemented on the ICC order’s original schedule.  Customer benefits include quicker response times to outages and the ability to participate in energy saving programs.

“ComEd has pulled off the biggest bait-and-switch in Illinois history,” said Chicago energy attorney Paul G. Neilan, who brought the suit.  “ComEd sold this legislation on the benefits of smart meters, and customers have already started paying for them.  But then ComEd took the law into its own hands and willfully defied an order of the Illinois Commerce Commission. No one will so much as see a smart meter until 2015.”

In addition, ComEd has been pushing Senate Bill 9 through the General Assembly. The legislation contains provisions purporting to release ComEd from its violation of the ICC’s original order.

“Senate Bill 9 is a stealth statute because buried deep in the bill is language that attempts to re-write history and erase ComEd’s violation of the ICC’s order,” says Neilan.  “That provision is invalid on its face. It’s also equivalent to a signed confession. Customers also need to know that ComEd/Exelon gave more than $192,000 in campaign contributions to the legislative sponsors of Senate Bill 9. That’s about one tenth of one percent of the $182 million in damages ComEd inflicted on ratepayers.”

Championed by former Mayor Daley, Chicago has worked hard to be known as one of the most environmentally friendly and largest users of green energy in the U.S. with its roof top gardens, recycling programs, LEED certified buildings, and green construction and development.  It has won numerous international awards for its green agenda and even offers a city-sponsored “Green Office Challenge.” “Smart meters are a crucial part of that mission,” Neilan said.  “ComEd’s move will slow Chicago’s progress in energy efficiency and reduced emissions, and more importantly in benefits to customers.”